Macy’s Inc. will close nine underperforming stores within the next several weeks, affecting just under 900 workers.

The stores did minimal volumes and are in malls where Macy’s sees little growth potential and extensive retail vacancies bringing down shopper traffic and mood. Final clearance sales at the nine stores will begin soon, on varying schedules.

In addition to the closings, there has been speculation Macy’s may embark on other cost-cutting maneuvers, including consolidating certain regional operations. One source said the retailer’s regional divisions in Miami, known as Macy’s Florida, and Atlanta, called Macy’s South, could be combined. The company would not comment on the speculation.

Macy’s operates five other divisions — Macy’s East based at Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, Macy’s Northwest based in Seattle, Macy’s North in Minneapolis, Macy’s Midwest in St. Louis and Macy’s West in San Francisco. The corporation also operates Bloomingdale’s, based in Manhattan.

In a statement on the nine closings, Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Macy’s Inc., said, “While the decision to close stores is difficult, it is necessary that we do so selectively in locations with declining sales and where we have been unable to identify sufficient growth opportunities. At the same time, we continue to open new Macy’s store locations in communities where we believe we can operate successfully.”

Lundgren said Macy’s opened 10 stores and one furniture gallery in 2007, and that in 2008, it expects to open five stores, with an additional six to eight planned for 2009.

The $27 billion Macy’s currently operates 850 units, including Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, and nearly doubled in size when it acquired May Department Stores Co.

The stores being closed include three in Ohio, in Rolling Acres Mall, Akron; Canton Centre, Canton, and Randall Park Mall, North Randall. Two Texas stores are being closed, in Valley View Center, Dallas, and Sharpstown Center, Houston.

The others being shut down are in Washington Square, Indianapolis; Prien Lake Mall, Lake Charles, La.; Crossroads Mall, Oklahoma City, and Family Center at Riverdale, Riverdale, Utah.

Some associates affected by the closings will be offered positions in nearby stores where possible. Those who don’t get reassigned will be given severances and outplacement assistance.

This story first appeared in the January 2, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The nine stores are separate from the duplicate locations Macy’s has been disposing of since its acquisition of May Department Stores in 2005. Of the 80 duplicate locations earmarked, Macy’s has either closed or sold about 70 and could decide to retain some of the remaining 10 units, according to Jim Sluzewski, a Macy’s Inc. spokesman.

Asked if more stores might be closed, he replied, “We don’t have any other plans at this point.” He added the nine stores have been underperforming “over a number of years” preceding the merger.

Macy’s regularly reviews store performances, but doesn’t have a specific schedule to determine potential closings, Sluzewski noted.

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